Upcoming and Noteworthy

What's ahead on The Classical Network? Catch some of these great programs coming your way. Information on evening concert broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and other nationally broadcast performances can be found on our home page.

This week’s Sunday Opera (2/28 3:00 p.m.) is celebrating Black History Month with a choral work based on stories gathered during the years of the Underground Railroad and the first opera by an African-American composer to be performed by a major American opera house.   We’ll begin with an encore presentation of Paul Moravec’s “Sanctuary Road” which is a setting of some of the personal stories gathered by Philadelphia Abolitionist William Still, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, who not only helped hundreds of people achieve their dreams of freedom, he also collected their stories through interviews.   The main piece of the afternoon is the opera “Troubled Island” by William Grant Still (no relation to William Still above) that was presented by the New York City Opera on March 31, 1949 making it the first opera by an African American composer to be presented at a major American opera house. 

On this week's Lyric Stage we have Lisa della Casa singing Mozart and Strauss, including the first complete recording of Strauss' Four Last Songs, which she made in 1953. She will also sing arias by Handel and Puccini, and some Lehar as well. 

Composer, conductor, and critic Constant Lambert was one of the most versatile figures in English music. As music director of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, he was integral to the planning of each new production, in many cases providing arrangements of lesser-known works by worthy composers, such as Chabrier, Couperin, and Liszt.  He also became something of an artistic mentor to dancers Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann.  Tune in for vintage recordings of Tchaikovsky, Meyerbeer, Boyce, and Rossini.  Lambert is the only constant, this Sunday at 10 pm.

On Episode 296 of the ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award winning program Between the Keys, The Classical Network’s Artist-in-Residence Jed Distler invites listeners on a cinematic musical tour with the piano in tow.

We’re celebrating Black History Month on this week’s program by showcasing the careers of some of the wonderful black performers who left indelible marks on the Broadway stage.   They include Ethel Waters, Todd Duncan, Juanita Hall, Harry Belafonte, Eartha Kitt, Norm Lewis, Cleavon Little, and Lena Horne.  We’ll also hear from Billy Porter, Audra McDonald, Ben Vereen, Pearl Bailey, Lillias White, and Andre De Shields.

Rise above your worldly concerns and keep looking up with an hour of music about flight and aviation.  Get a bird’s-eye view with selections from “The High and the Mighty” (Dimitri Tiomkin), “The Spirit of St. Louis” (Franz Waxman), “Airport” (Alfred Newman), and “The Blue Max” (Jerry Goldsmith).  Classic film music is the wind beneath our wings, this Saturday at 6 pm.

As with the broader classical music world, musicians and ensembles in the field of Early Music have begun to explore ways to become more inclusive and diverse, and recognize the diversity that has existed in the field - from musicians of color who were participants during the Renaissance, Baroque and early Classical eras to those actively involved today.

The music of Jean-Philippe Rameau will be featured on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/21 3:00 p.m.) with the 1756 version of his epic battle between good and evil entitled “Zoroastre.”  The prophet Zoroaster is in love with Amelite who is the presumptive heir to the newly vacant throne of Bactria.  Amelite’s sister, Erinice, plots with the evil sorcerer Abramane to seize the throne and banish Amelite, partially because of her jealousy of Amelite after being rejected by Zoroastre.  The battle rages over five acts with furies, genies, demons, gods, and a fiery chariot and still manages to come to a mystically happy ending after Zoroaster dispatches the evil sorcerer and his minions with lightning bolts. 

Pauline Viardot (1821-1910) ran a salon in Paris for decades with the original score of Don Giovanni on display, and Rossini genuflected to it. Tchaikovsky was another of the many notables who attended the salon. She was a close friend of Chopin, Franz Liszt and Ivan Turgenev. Her parents and siblings were also known and notable musicians, and she herself was a singer, a pianist, a teacher and composer. 

Concert pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm during the First World War.  Rather than abandon his career, he commissioned works for the left hand from some of the great composers of his day, including Benjamin Britten, Sergei Prokofiev, Richard Strauss, and of course Maurice Ravel.  Listen in for two of his lesser-known commissions: the Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor, by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and “Klaviermusik mit Orchester,” by Paul Hindemith.  The latter was rediscovered in a Pennsylvania farmhouse in 2002.  Give a hand for Paul Wittgenstein, this Sunday at 10 pm.

On Episode 295 of the ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award winning program Between the Keys, The Classical Network’s Artist-in-Residence Jed Distler takes listeners for a journey “Under the Radar.”

“Under the Radar means many things,” says Distler. “Unusual repertoire. pianists who deserve more attention, or recordings that you might not be aware of. Or all of the above.”

This week’s Dress Circle (2/14 7:00 p.m.) is actually a program to celebrate Valentine’s Day!  To that end, we’ve compiled a program of some of our favorite love songs from Broadway and Hollywood.  True to our mission, we’ll have a mix of familiar and unfamiliar songs.  On the familiar side, we’ve focused on “Show Boat,” “Follies,” “Kismet,” and “La Cage aux Folles.”  On the not so familiar stage side, we’ve got songs from “Steel Pier,” “Children of Eden,” “Very Warm for May,” and “Napoleon.”  We’ve even turned to a few films like “Tangled” and “Enchanted” for two of our favorites. 


February gets overheated with music from movies inspired by the Brontë sisters, including “Wuthering Heights” (Alfred Newman), two adaptations of “Jane Eyre” (Bernard Herrmann & John Williams), and the biographical fiction “Devotion” (Erich Wolfgang Korngold).  It’s a Yorkshire pudding of passion, torment, and cruelty. Sigh along with tortured romances of the Brontës, this Saturday at 6 pm.

A Tempo this Saturday (2/13 at 7 pm) checks in with the Trenton Children's Chorus, which has continued to provide musical and academic training to students in the Trenton community despite the challenges of the pandemic thanks in part to grants from the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund and the Princeton Area Community Foundation. Host Rachel Katz will speak with Executive Director Kate Mulligan, Artistic Director Vinroy D. Brown Jr., Learning Academy Director Gloria Bethea and Director of Development, Marketing and Communications Alicia Brozovich. 

It’ll be a 1960’s dream cast for Amilcare Ponchielli’s 1876 success, “La Gioconda,” on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/14 3:00 p.m.).  Gioconda is a Venetian street singer who runs afoul of the Inquisition in the form of one of its spies, Barnaba, who lusts for her.  However, Gioconda loves Enzo Grimaldo, a Genoese prince who has come to Venice in disguise in order to collect his love, Laura, the wife of Alvise, one of the leaders of the Inquisition.  Thinking that he can get rid of Enzo so that he might have more of a chance with Gioconda, Barnaba leaves a message for Alvise in the mouth of one of the lions guarding the Basilica of St. Marks to inform Alvise of his wife’s treachery. 

Cupid, draw back your bow, for two contrasting treatments of the allegorical myth of Psyche and Eros.  Frequently interpreted as a metaphor for the elevation of the soul through love, it’s a beautiful tale of blind faith betrayed and redemption achieved, the protagonists clambering through travails to triumph.  César Franck’s version is full of romance and ardor.  Lord Berners’ is decidedly cheekier, more suited to the ballroom, perhaps, or even an amusement park.  Get Psyched for Valentine’s Day.  Love is blind, then kind, this Sunday at 10 pm.

On Episode 294 of the ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award winning program Between the Keys, The Classical Network’s Artist-in-Residence Jed Distler features symphonic music transcribed for piano duet, either with four hands at one piano or involving two pianos.

Some call February the “Month of Love,” and since we love musicals, we’ll be looking at some of the February openings on this week’s Dress Circle (2/7 7:00 p.m.) (…not that we don’t do this each month, but…)  Once again, we’ve got a happy mix of songs from shows like 1917’s “Oh, Boy!” through 2017’s revival of “Sunday in the Park with George” starring Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal.  Along our 100-year route, we’ll hear from other revivals including “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” “The Pajama Game,” “Sunset Boulevard,” and “Fiddler on the Roof” as well the original casts of “Redhead” and “Wonderful Town.” 


Slip on your dancing shoes and chase away the winter blues.  Get those toes tapping with selections from “The Tales of Beatrix Potter” (John Lanchbery), “The Red Shoes” (John Easdale), “Specter of the Rose” (George Antheil), “The Leopard” (Nino Rota), and “A Damsel in Distress” (George Gershwin).  Regain your tone with tunes from movies about the dance, this Saturday at 6 pm.

Courtesy of World History Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

The legendary singer Marian Anderson is most often remembered for her historic performance at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, an appearance organized in response to the refusal by the Daughters of the American Revolution to allow her to sing at the DAR Constitution Hall. That was just one of many times that the contralto faced racist policies and sentiments throughout her musical education and career, and a new documentary, Voice of Freedom, that premieres Feb.

We have a bit of historical fiction, quite a bit actually, on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/7 3:00 p.m.) with Alberto Franchetti’s homage to Christopher Columbus in a work commissioned by Genoa to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Columbus’ voyage.  Here, Columbus is beloved of his men after finding South America where he runs afoul of the natives but escapes with the help of the high priest’s daughter.  The cast includes Renato Bruson, Roberto Scandiuzzi, Rosella Ragatzu, Marco Berti, and Gisella Pasino with Marcello Viotti leading the Radio Chorus Budapest and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. 

Manon Lescaut was Puccini's first great success. It premiered in Turin in 1893, and after some revision, in Milan in1894. It was a rocky road to success. Giulio Ricordi, the publisher, warned Puccini not to try it - only a few years before Massenet had used the same 1731 novel by the Abbe Prevost to write his very popular Manon. Puccini was undaunted: "a woman like Manon can have more than one lover," he said. "Massenet feels it as a Frenchman, with powder and minuets; I shall feel it as an Italian, with a desperate passion."

The Lost Chord: February 7 - Still Runs Deep

Feb 4, 2021

William Grant Still was recognized as the “Dean of Afro-American Composers.”  His Symphony No. 1, the “Afro-American Symphony,” is probably his best-known music, but his Symphony No. 2, “Song of a New Race,” is equally attractive, full of good tunes, with a second movement George Gershwin could have only wished he had written.  On a more somber note is Still’s choral ballad, “And They Lynched Him on a Tree,” contemporary with Abel Meeropols’ “Strange Fruit.”  The hour will conclude with the beautiful and contemplative “Summerland.”  Still is still the one, this Sunday at 10 pm.

On Episode 293 of the ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award winning program Between the Keys, The Classical Network’s Artist-in-Residence Jed Distler presents all twelve of Chopin’s Etudes Op. 25, in performances by different pianists

“We’ll hear at least one interpretation of each etude with a different pianist, yet not repeating a pianist,” Distler explains. “The artists represent many generations of Chopin playing, with pianists born between 1874 and 1982.”

You may not know the name, but you’re sure to know the songs we’ll be showcasing of Roger Edens on this week’s Dress Circle (1/31 7:00 p.m.).  After a short stint on Broadway as a pianist, Edens was one of the throng who went to Hollywood and the films, but in his case, it was a wise move.  He came to the attention of Arthur Freed at MGM, and for nearly three decades wrote songs and incidental music for some of Hollywood’s most loved musicals such as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Funny Face,” “Good News,” “Meet Me in St. Louis,” and “On the Town.” 

Baby, it’s cold outside!  The best time for armchair travel.  Cozy in, but get a world view, with selections from “Dersu Uzala” (Isaac Schwartz), “The White Reindeer” (Einar Englund), “Lieutenant Kijé” (Sergei Prokofiev), and “Scott of the Antarctic” (Ralph Vaughan Williams).  The forecast is for a wintry mix, this Saturday at 6 pm.

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